Foam rolling your IT band and Hamstring muscles can be effective only if you do it the right way. In this post I refer to the x-axis left to right (side to side or cross fiber foam rolling) & y-axis top to bottom ( down the leg towards the feet or up the leg towards the hip) foam rolling. Additionally, foam rolling with handles not only makes this possible because you have the ability to control your balance and speed but the handles can also be used for a deeper trigger point dig into your sore areas.
Have you ever been to the gym and observed someone in that awkward position “rolling-out” the back of their legs, hips and upper back and said to yourself “I’m not doing that!” You may be saving yourself valuable time. Over the years I have eliminated directly foam rolling the hamstring including the IT band in the traditional way. Instead, my valuable foam rolling time is spent rolling-out those two large and long muscle groups at different cross fiber specific angles; ie. I roll out muscles along the the x-axis lines vs. the y-axis path. I also include and combine static and dynamic stretching techniques to really lengthen and loosen those tight hamstring muscles and IT band tendon.
Manufacturers and distributors of foam rollers commonly claim that “rolling out” with a foam roller will increase your ROM and flexibility in overall hips, thighs and hamstrings.” There may be no benefit in rolling out those areas in ways that you may have been taught. In a recent study that included 14 males and 13 female college students, the International Journal of Exercise Sciences reported a association between common manufacturer claims that foam rolling can increased hip-hamstring range-of-motion (ROM), posture alignment and flexibility in as little after using a foam roller for several weeks. In short, studies suggest that stretching the hamstrings using foam rollers may not be as effective as you think if used in the traditional way. Start foam rolling the cross fiber portion of the large hamstring muscle and combine that with static/dynamic stretching techniques. I guarantee that the aforementioned method is 100% more effective than a standard “up and down” hamstring roll-out vs. a “side-to-side” hamstring roll-out. Try it and let me know what your results are!
- International Journal of Exercise Science: 6(4): 310-319; 2013